Trump's war on the free press is not merely ugly and unpresidential — it's also incredibly dangerous.
Trump routinely calls the free press "the enemy of the people" — and that's a message at least one of his defenders took very seriously.
Robert D. Chain was arrested and charged with threatening to kill reporters at the Boston Globe, and his threats included language that sounded an awful lot like Trump.
"You're the enemy of the people, and we're going to kill every fucking one of you," he said in one recorded call, according to the criminal complaint.
"Because you are the enemy of the people, and I want you to go fuck yourself," he said in another call. "As long as you keep attacking the president, the duly elected president of the United States, in the continuation of your treasonous and seditious acts, I will continue to threats [sic], harass, and annoy the Boston Globe, owned by the New York Times, the other fake news."
Trump has been referring to the New York Times and other major media outlets as "fake news" since his 2016 campaign. But in recent months, he has ramped up his rhetoric.
For example, Trump tweeted on Aug. 19 about "fake reporters" at the "failing New York Times" writing a story Trump claimed they knew was false.
"This is why the Fake News Media has become the Enemy of the People," he wrote. "So bad for America!"
Chain allegedly called the Boston Globe three days later, echoing Trump's complaints about coverage and even his language.
The Department of Justice says Chain started making threatening phone calls shortly after the Boston Globe announced it was calling on newspapers around the country to publish editorials condemning Trump's war on the free press. More than 130 newspapers participated.
Reporters have been sounding the alarm for months about Trump's increasingly hostile rhetoric. White House correspondent April Ryan reported receiving death threats after Fox News attacked her for asking Trump questions the White House did not approve of.
In a recent interview, she described threats she has received and said she now has a bodyguard.
Earlier this month, CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta warned about the dangerous way Trump riles up his supporters at rallies, where Trump always attacks the "fake news" and his fans often chant "CNN sucks."
"I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt," Acosta said.
In June, after five people were shot dead at the Capital Gazette in Baltimore, Trump continued his attacks on the media the very next day.
Trump has never specifically called for violence against reporters — though he has quite explicitly endorsed and celebrated violence in general against opponents and critics.
"If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell ... I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise," he said at a campaign rally in February 2016.
He made similar kinds of comments at rallies throughout his campaign.
Trump did not pick up the phone and make threatening calls to the Boston Globe. But the rhetoric he uses on a regular basis sends a very clear and dangerous message to his supporters. Those reporters who dare to write unflattering coverage of him are not merely critical; they are "enemies."
It's no surprise, then, that his supporters echo his ugly language. What is terrifying, though, is the very real possibility that anyone might be inspired by his rhetoric to take action against those supposed "enemies" Trump attacks.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.